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Dogs Can Remember Owner’s Actions Even Trivial Ones: Episodic Memories In Dogs, Discovered

Update Date: Nov 25, 2016 09:00 AM EST
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A study was conducted to test a dog's memory especially on actions that are not stressed to them as important. The dogs were able to copy owner's actions even when commanded an hour later, prompting researchers to conclude that dogs have episodic memories like humans.

It is already established that dogs have memories, which is why they can be trained to do specific instructions when commanded. Dogs are able to respond to commands like "sit," "roll over" or "fetch" because they are able to retain memories of past actions especially when it is expected of them.

Dogs rely on semantic memories in the same way that humans do. This is the kind of memory employed by humans in learning in school as well as in gathering facts about the world like recalling the names of American presidents.

However, a group of Hungarian researchers wanted to find out if dogs have episodic memories, which pertain to memories of specific times and places like where the first meal was taken or other seemingly unimportant everyday occurrences.

The researchers used 17 dogs of different breeds and then trained to imitate the actions of their owners. The first phase involved a simple command to copy a previously unseen action while the succeeding phase required the dog to lie down watching the owner perform an action like tapping on an umbrella.

With a delay of one minute, the command "Do it" was sprung on the dogs and another delay of one full hour before the command was sprung upon them. The results were published in the journal Current Biology, which reveals that 94.1 percent was able to successfully copy the owner's actions when it was expected of them while 58.8 percent was able to respond to the "Do it" command after a one minute delay and 35.3 percent after an hour delay as reported in The Guardian.

Claudia Fugazza of Eötvös Luránd University in Hungary reveals that "dogs can remember events...like we do," USA Today reported.  Dogs have episodic memories but since there is no evidence to suggest that dogs are self-aware, researchers call it episodic-like memories instead. Further tests are needed to establish whether dogs' memories have a richness to it similar to humans like whether they are also aware of not just past actions, but other memories of the presence of other people, what the day was like when the said action was performed.

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